Monday, December 29, 2014

Bennington, VT #9 "A Christmas Miracle!"

Dearest Family,
It was SO much fun talking to you all on Christmas! I thankfully didn't get homesick in the slightest! Just love all of you more than ever :) The best thing was Amanda telling Breton to chew with his mouth closed... I felt like I was just at home :)
So many miracles are happening here, I am just seriously amazed!!! We are basically trying to get a lot of people in our teaching pool who are truly prepared, even if we don't see the success right now, we know that will help things progress a lot more later! It's really exciting :)
So, I can't remember anything before Christmas eve. I already told you a lot of what happened, but we had a district meeting. What usually takes us a half an hour to drive, took us an hour and 10 minutes. We've decided to just stick with the gps cuz I'm just too bad with directions :)

-That night, we went to the Kimball's house with the Campell-Copps (favorite British couple ever). SO fun. Sis. Kimball gave us pajamas. I still where pjam pants whenever I can of course. Oh, and found out Robert Frost is buried right by our apartment! We're going there today!
-Christmas morning! We opened presents (thanks mom and Sister Pew for everything! LOVED it all!) We then went to the Finnegan's beautiful home, played games and called home for way longer than I was supposed to! Woot woot! I love that you're all still crazy.
-We delivered cookies to people on the way home. They were super gross, hard cookies, but we tried and really, I think Sister Missionaries can basically pull off anything as long we're smiling. We walked around Bennington delivering cookies for the rest of the night. So fun! There are so many lonely people here... it made me kind of sad, but I like knowing how blessed I am to have such a loving family. And, of course, I called home for a few minutes before I went to bed! I love that we can do that!
-Tina absolutely loved her presents and she didn't suspect us at all! Bro. Behunin gave them to her and when we showed up hours later, they were all open and all over the place. I guess they were having their early Christmas party right when Bro. B! Other people had donated presents to her, so I think it was a wonderful Christmas for Tina's family. In our lesson yesterday, she had started reading the BoM and she committed to come to church on Sunday! She just invited herself so that makes me think she'll really come.

-MIRACLES!!! So, I never knew what an "area book" really was before my mission... but it's magic. I was a little creeped out at first of how much we keep track of everyone, but now it's glorious! While Sister Gochnour was writing her talk this week, I'd sit and just love that area book, writing down lots of people that they said "Try again soon!" years and years ago that nobody ever tried again. So, on Friday and Saturday we listened to some motivational Called to Serve motab and sang it as we walked the streets to get ourselves really excited to go find some lost kingdom builders. In Timo's letter last week, he said that.. "kingdom building families". I'd never thought of that before but suddenly I was craving a family like that... AND WE FOUND ONE! We found four wonderfully prepared people who all happened to live at the top of ginormous hills (Satan's trick, trying to stop lazy missionaries from finding them... ha, almost worked on me). I wish I had more time to tell you about them. But, the kingdom building family...

-So, we realized that we calculated our miles totally totally wrong and that we have an extra 250 to spare! So, we've been trying to spend our time in Hoosick Falls, NY, which has been neglected for years. After visiting some investigators there, we had time to try a few formers. None of them were interested, but were all very nice, so we went and tried someone named Hickeys. It was dark and creepy, the house was dark and no one was answering. Around the side was this little path, so I went down it. Sister Gochnour is the sweetest and for some reason was being stubborn and telling me to come back, refusing to follow me because it was creepy to go around the back. In about an hour, she would be thanking me as we both cried in the car home... because as I walked around the back, with Sis. Gochnour deciding to follow, a porch light flipped on. A man called out to us, we told him we were just missionaries, asked if he'd met with them before, he was thrilled and suddenly we were inside with the cutest most mormon family I've met thus far on my mission!!! We found out that the missionaries haven't come for 6 years! They stopped coming because the dad, Jeff couldn't quit drinking and chewing and was in and out of rehab. He has now been sober for 15 months, he proudly told us, and has obviously now ready!! He even ran and got his Book of Mormon when he saw it was missionaries!! After 6 years, he still knows where it is! They already know a few people in the branch and live just down the street from the Johnsons, our new investigator Leah's family! We left that house in a daze, sat in the car and cried and screamed and cheered and praised those wonderful elders 6 years ago for preparing this family so well.

I can't sleep anymore these days because I am just TOO EXCITED about what's going on! I am just too happy and this week will be incredible with the new people we've found and MLC (mission leadership conference). I get to go sleep at the mission home AGAIN. Guys, I LOVED all of the letters, Christmas cards and packages I've been receiving for Christmas! I'm just the most blessed missionary ever. But with the amazing ward family we have, I knew I would be. Keep them coming! :)

Sure love all of you!

Love, Sister Brynn Hallsted

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Bennington, VT #8 "Woot! Woot!"

Dear Family,
Woot woot stands for... a baptism this week!!!! Yeahhhh man. This entire week was so wonderful and so long for some reason. But in a great way! It feels like me and Sister Gochnour have been together for years. Quite the inspired companionship, let me tell you.
She locked herself out again this morning. It's literally impossible to do so... story of our hilarious companionship though :)

-So Tuesday was rough. The last time I looked at the clock before I fell asleep, it said 3:30. We sisters wake up at 6:24 for some reason so it was a really rough night for sleeping. Honestly, I have been getting sick for a while now, but that day my body had just had it. I also didn't eat because I was worried I'd throw it up, so my body was just freaking out! We did everything like normal, but every movement hurt my stomach so badly for some reason. Sister Gochnour could tell of course, but during Charlann's lesson I couldn't go anymore. "Mamma Char" came out and forced me to go home and sleep during dinner instead of going to Jessica's, but I ended up sleeping much longer. I think as a missionary you say you'll rest and get better when you have time, but I've found that there will never ever be time! So, Sis. Gochnour moved our lessons for that night and I slept for nearly 13 hours! It was sooo needed. My body just loved me the next day and we were able to work really hard!

-Wednesday! We had zone conference! The strongest I've felt the Spirit since I have been in the field. It was focused all around our patriarchal blessings with was pretty amazing. I had to give a spiritual thought. We had a little sister training leader meeting afterwards too. During lunch, President Wirthlin started playing Christmas music that we're not allowed to listen to and then he accidentally started playing that apple bottom jeans song or one that sounded just like it. It was freaking hilarious! He stopped it, looked up and said "Was that me?!" Cutest old man ever. I love hearing him read quotes or talk about his dad (aka Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin) :) Super cool.

Now, here is where our Christmas miracle story I wanted to share gets even more amazing. So, do you remember our new investigator named Tina? She called us last Monday and was crying. Tina hasn't been able to keep a job because of her cancer, her husband passed away a year ago, she has a 17 year old son and her daughter's grand baby that she wants to get presents for, but she doesn't have any money. She was wondering if we knew of any organizations that help people out around Christmas time. We said we'd call around and get a list of some then call her back. She was SO thankful that we were willing to help her out. We hung up the phone and both were nearly crying. Sister Gochnour's dad had sent some money to her to help somebody out this Christmas and right then we realized who would be the perfect person to spend it on. We texted around but when we asked Charlann she immediately called us. "Who needs help?!" she told us she's going to the store to buy her stuff right away. This absolutely melted me because Charlann has absolutely nothing for Christmas. But she doesn't even realize it because I don't think she's thought of herself for a minute of her life. All she wants is a good relationship with her parents and kids. Because of her being baptized, she doesn't even have a family to go to on Christmas :( Yet, she immediately bought things for this absolute stranger. And it's not to do a good deed or check 'service' off her Christmas list of things to do. Char has absolutely no thought of recognition come into her mind when she does things like this. Not recognition from others or God or even herself. She amazes me and I want to be like her so badly each time we come out of a lesson.
Sorry, anyways, we were sooo excited to try and make Tina's Christmas a little better, but we were having a hard time thinking of what a teenage boy would like. So, when we went over to the Behunin's for dinner on Wednesday, we thought we'd ask Dylan what kids his age like. His sister Danielle heard us telling Tina's story and she decided she wanted to help too! It was the sweetest thing to see people completely drop all thoughts of themselves and their own Christmas to help someone else. Brother Behunin is dropping them anonymously off tomorrow! So so excited :)

-Update on Jackson. Ugh. I don't even know, but I want him to come back. He's still traveling all over and says he's getting closer! Who knows though. He promises he'll be here for his baptism but he's only ever been taught the restoration and read the Book of Mormon!

-Saturday was Charlann's baptism: I really can't remember what happens at a baptism except that they get fully immersed so I was pretty stressed out. But all was well!! Sister Campell-copp showed up (my favorite british convert ever) and made everything much better! Me and Sis. Gochnour sang "He Sent His Son" and it was honestly pretty awful, but it made Charlann cry and that's really all that matters :) Charlann was pretty nervous so Pres. Finnegan held her hand the entire time :) He is the most loving person! He gives literally everybody a hug on Sundays except us. He amazes me. Charlann did such a good job at the baptizing part! Only took one try and she did this little classic Charlann squeal when she came up out of the water. As she was walking up the steps out of the font, she's holding my hand and says "One year till temple!" That's my girl :) I didn't even get to say good bye to her before she left cuz she was just too popular. I adore her.

-Sunday we had our branch Christmas program! Amazing for missionary work. Sooo many people from our branch brought non-member friends and nearly all of the people that we invited came! The sticky note miracle is the Johnson family. We had visited them that week and the kids absolutely adored us. They actually have a little girl who wants to be baptized: Leah. Not a boy. They said they wanted to come to church on Sunday! The grandma: Barbara, mom: Jessica and even her boyfriend: Kahlil (yes, it's awesome) all wanted to come and we hadn't even invited them yet! Bro. B happens to have a car big enough and they all came! Bro. B tried explaining us how amazing that was because people have been trying to get them to come for years. It was awesome.

-Today, we just had a district activity at our church because everyone is obsessed with finding some excuse to get to Vermont. It's silly. We played games forever, ate and had a white elephant gift exchange. SO much fun. I'm always so awkward around other missionaries, but when I start laughing, I cannot stop. I am also getting the greatest reputation amongst the sisters as the sister who teaches lessons in her sleep. So proud of my sleep talking :) 

I am so so so excited to talk to you guys on Thursday! I hope I have a niece waiting for me, but if you can't manage that, I will forgive you. I have also loved getting those packages and Christmas cards from the ward!!! Especially the ward Christmas package. So much fun!!!
I love you guys all so much and I hope everyone has a very happy Christmas.

Love you all tons, Sister Brynnie Hallsted

Ps. So sorry this letter is so long.

Quotes from Bennington... too many:
"Hm... fuzzy arm." (rubbing my hairy arm during our lesson) -Michiko
"Noooo. You don't give a dress to a pet cat!" -Charlann 
"I sometimes act out my problems." -Char
"Look! I got a white bra for my baptism!!!" -Char
"Anybody want a bread and butter pickle?!" -Char
"I think I need to work on moderation in my chocolate intake." -Char
"Heavenly Father... please stop scaring Sister Hallsted with... the lamp." (Lamp then falls on my head) -Char
"Ask the sisters... they do real mish-marry work." -E. Butterfield
"So I had to ask myself... am I an alter boy or am I a drunk?" -John
(said with an english accent) "There is literally a chicken crossing the road! Peter would love this! He loves chickens!!" -Sister Campell-copp
"Heavenly Father, please help Sister Gass to be in a band. I think she'd be really good at it."-Mary Lou
Visiting Charlann before her baptism: "Am I supposed to abstain from food before baptism?... Oh good! I'm starving!" She thought she had to fast all day. Haha

1. Baptism!
2. Some more dead beavers :)

Monday, December 15, 2014

Bennington, VT #7 "Help me!"

I put that subject line in quotations so you all wouldn't think I was dying or something. I'm not! I'm having an unbelievably amazing time if we're comparing things to how they were a week ago!! This subject line comes from mine and Sister Gochnour's great start to our transfer together. This morning, I had just gotten out of the shower and was in our closet room while I thought Sis. Gochnour was in the kitchen making this loud banging noise like she was emptying something into the garbage can. I was pretending to be a ballerina for a while, acted out a few scenes to myself in front of the mirror, then sat on my bed and wrote in my journal till I couldn't take that noise anymore. I walked into the kitchen to see what the heck she was doing. She wasn't there... I peeked around the corner and she was pounding at the door and her little face saw me in the window and she started yelling "Help me! I'm locked out!!!" Hahaha! I felt SO bad!!! We decided it was more than 15 minutes that she was locked out there and I was just pretending to be a ballerina :)
Basically, our companionship has been amazing so far! When I first met her, she gave me a hug and we got to talk for a little bit while we waited for Sis. Thao and her new comp to come get in the "party car". Our first conversation was basically me telling her that I hope she's ready to work hard, because I have been wanting to do that for a long time. Our last companionships were so similar so we are both thrilled to have each other!! :) She is so ready to finish her mission out with a bang and I want to do that with her! She totally has been up for my plan to change Bennington and the miracles have been AMAZING.

-At transfers, I saw Joshua Brook-how-zen (can't spell it :)!!!! You all saw the picture on Facebook. AND I've found out that Sister North is back out and in my district (ahhh!) SO excited! Also found out that Sister Thao is in my zone still PARTY. Have we planned exchanges yet? Yes we have. Am I going with Sister Thao and Sister North. Probably, yes. I'm way too excited. I said goodbye to Sister Gass. Said bye to Sister Collette. We'll be together for eternity so I'm not worried about it this time. Didn't even cry!

-They told everyone to start making their drives asap because a big storm was coming. This was the funnest thing of my life!!! Our 2 hour drive to Albany took 4 and a half hours and Sister Thao made it hilarious and helped Sis. Gochnour relax a little as she tried not to crash in the blizzard. We ended up just sleeping over at Sis. Thao and Sis. Hunting's new apartment in Albany! SO FUN. It didn't feel like missionary life anymore and it was extremely chaotic since they were white-washing and there was stuff everywhere. We built a snowman version of Sis. Thao in the morning and then drove home in our pajamas when we had permission to leave.

-While Sis. Gochnour unpacked, I went through the mystery closet and found tons of Christmas decorations. 2 trees and everything! So our apartment looks amazing! Still doesn't feel like Christmas though, but I'm trying.

-Part of my plan to change things here is to see those people who haven't been progressing wayyy less and to see who has potential more. SO many miracles have happened! One of them is a lady named Tina who had one lesson with the missionaries, but she's been in and out of the hospital because she has cancer. So I thought she just wasn't interested because it had been almost two months since they had met with her. But she finally answered us! We planned a big trip out to Hoosick Falls to see every person we could there and stopped by her house on the way! We had an incredible lesson with her and she knows it's all true. At the beginning we talked about prophets and she said "It sure would be nice if we had prophets today! We really need one." I was freaking out :) She was absolutely thrilled to hear about the restoration and cried multiple times because she was so happy! She called us on the way home and said "I wouldn't mind being baptized." I just... don't even know :) All we have to do is help her have more of a desire than "I wouldn't mind..."!!!

-We have to move Jackson's baptismal date to January 17th because he missed church yesterday, but I feel okay with that. We haven't seen him in over a month and sometimes I'm worried he's starting his own religion somewhere. He is just so prepared that it's so hard for me to believe that he's real. He's just keeping all of his commitments without even telling us so it's like he's progressing totally with out us doing anything. He continues to "share the book" with everyone he meets. He's just too good to be true.

-We teach a ton of people I can't even tell you about for time's sake, but I have faith we can set this teenage girl that we have Facebook lessons with with a baptismal date this week. I hope for January 31st with another one of our investigators, Jacen and his brother Sean (Jessica's boys)

-While in Hoosick Falls, we stopped by a house that we didn't even know what they were (rcla/ former or potential investigator), but we left them a note not really thinking about it. Because of our note, they realized we haven't forgotten about them! They have been waiting for the missionaries to come back and they have a son who wants to be baptized! What the!? I just don't know what's happening but this new plan to make Bennington a whole new area has been truly amazing. Heavenly Father has prepared SO many of these people.

-Charlann's baptism is this Saturday!! I am super nervous because I can't remember the last time I went to a baptism, but it will be alright! She wants you all to fly here and come SO badly and she just can't understand why that's not allowed :) I have so much love for her, it's unbelievable to me.

-The Facebook rule has changed :( No more pictures,guys. And they haven't announced it to everyone, but we're only going to have 20 minutes on FB soon. That is awful news because we actually have lessons on Facebook every time but they always take a while to get going... I am just outraged :)

I have so much more to say! We have so many exciting things coming up and I am SO excited for Christmas. Sister Gochnour's dad has sent her some money for us to use for people and we have some super exciting ways we're going to use it! Being here around Christmas has been so humbling for me because I've seen how little people have but are still so focused on giving things to other people and helping out financially in any way they can. I'll tell you an amazing story about that next week.
I have come to love these people here even more (if that's even possible) as I've introduced Sister Gochnour to them and felt the pride and joy I have in my heart for every little weird thing about them. I love you all so very much and I hope you are loving Christmastime as much as I am!!! :)
Love, Sister Brynn Hallsted

ps. Sis. Gochnour is like Emily Maxwell's twin except blonde. So obviously she's just the sweetest thing ever!

1. Our snowman
2. Me and Sister Thao sittting by her Christmas tree :) I'm wearing pajamas we found in a closet leftover from other sisters. So awesome.
3. Our last walk up Charlann's hill. It's a killer :)
4. Me and Elder Butterfeild.
5. Me eating a pomegranate for the first time.
6. Sister Gass took that of me writing in my journal. See my wall? :)
7. & 8. Our apartment

Monday, December 8, 2014

Bennington VT #6 Sista Money

Dearest Family,
First I want to say Happy Birthday to Dad and Derek! You're both getting so old ;)
Basically, this has been the craziest week yet! It was a super rollarcoaster-y week.
The title's once again from Michiko (Chad and MB's 5 year old). She started calling me that this week. It's like my new rapper name... my only rapper name ever ;)
So, I'll just spoil the fun and start with the craziest news first!
We got transfer calls on Saturday afternoon, during Charlann's lesson. We didn't answer of course but we told her what they were calling for and she just broke down crying (well, she does that every lesson, but this was worse than usual). Sister Gass reassured her that she's most likely not going to get transferred because President practically told her she wouldn't. Well... I knew she was leaving. We had just gone to the church that morning for Charlann's baptismal interview. She passed! She was SO nervous. She wanted to know everything about our District Leader who would be giving her the interview and she kept saying "Oh my... he sounds tough." We finally convinced her that he's just a 19 year old boy and was going to be nice to her :) After the interview, we did our Facebook time and I read my letter from President Wirthlin. I was shocked when he had written me and practically told me Sister Gass was getting transferred. I didn't say anything about it. But I tried to somehow prepare her for it... we got the call and she was absolutely shocked. They said I will be getting a sister who has only two transfers left. Sister Gochner?? Sister Gass will be going to Fayetteville. The complete opposite side of the mission. I just broke down crying when I heard that because I didn't completely believe it was true. She cried too and has been crying a bit since which has made things super hard. I hate watching her be so sad. I almost wish I was leaving Bennington so she wouldn't have to be so incredibly sad, but I know this will be good for Bennington.

The Zone Leaders called to tell us where everyone else was going, who the new leaders are in the mission and such. They told me Sister Collette is leaving so I cried even harder. They told me Sister Thao left too so I cried some more. Then they read the list of new STLs. The second one they said was "Hallsted" and just kept reading down the list. Me and S. Gass looked at each other and said "Wait, what? Did you say 'Hallsted'?" They were so surprised that President Wirthlin didn't ever call me or anything. Haha! Suddenly, I was totally fine. No more crying. I don't know why, but that gave me a lot of strength and excitement thinking about how much I'm going to grow and learn this next transfer! But it's kind of a bummer that Sister Collette and Thao are gone now!!! It would've been too fun.

Somehow we went through all of church with out Charlann hearing. That was honestly a miracle and we prayed that would happen. We didn't want her to have a break down there and then. But we told her at the end of our lesson that night, she cried, but not nearly as much as we thought! She said she knew. She could tell even before the call came. She took it extremely well and was comforted by the thought that the next sister will probably know how to plan a baptism :)

We've been street contacting lots with the He is the Gift cards. The first day we got them, I shared them with like 5 people before S. Gass told me I should probably get their contact info when I talk to them. Haha! I didn't realize that would be smart, but I was wondering why on earth she didn't tell me that at the beginning! But whatever, I really love it! Street contacting and knocking on doors is just the funniest, most awkward thing ever. Especially if I'm doing it. But I really loooove it! I never thought I'd like doing that but it helps make things a little more fun to have these super awkward moments with strangers. People here are funny because they'll look at us through the front door window and then just walk away and pretend they're not home. Hahaha We had one lady get really mad at us and it was scary because that was the first time I've been rejected yet. A few people have given us their numbers and said they'll call us back when they're not busy though (S. Gass says that means they won't ever call which is what it probably does mean). A few people have made up totally phony numbers on the spot which I think is funny because you can totally tell. But we're still trying to share them with everyone!

Jackson is still somewhere not in Bennington but calls and texts us all the time. He just has to quit smoking and then he's set with the Word of Wisdom. I didn't know he had to go to church 4 times before he's baptized, but Sister Gass remembered that Saturday night so we quickly texted him and he went their in Baltimore! He says quitting smoking will be easy because he has no money to buy some anyways!

Basically, I am okay right now, I am mostly worried a lot about Sister Gass. I'm just trying to focus on having a good time and trying to learn all that I can in these next few days! I'm planning on changing up a few things with this new companion and dropping a few people that haven't been progressing but have been being taught for over a year. We'll see how things go and if I die of too much stress or something. I am thrilled that I get to sleep over in the mission home and go to a transfer meeting AGAIN! I'm hoping some of my friends will be there!
I love you all and am getting soooo excited for Christmas and especially to see my new niece!!!!!!
Sure love you guys,
Sister (Money) Hallsted :)

1. Sister Collette made this for me last District meeting! haha Love her!
2. Our district photo that they said I couldn't put on Facebook :) I made everyone wear these table decorations on their heads.

unnamed 2.jpg

Monday, December 1, 2014

Bennington VT #5 Yo' belly egg.

Dear family,
This subject line comes from Chad and MB's daughter Michiko. She came up to me in church yesterday and was rubbing my belly saying "Is this yo' belly egg?". She's 5. It wasn't creepy. Her dad later told me that's what she calls everyone's stomach. I thought it was a fat joke ;)

So, this week was fantastic and I'm starting to get the hang of things a bit more!
The best thing of the entire week....
RETURN AND REPORT. I love that name because it reminds me of the temple. This is where we all return to the mission home again and report how things are going and ask questions! I loved this and I have so many questions to ask because, I've realized after return and report, that I haven't really been "trained" on anything because my trainer is basically brand new too. So I had so many questions.
It was absolutely amazing to see my MTC sisters again! I think everyone was shocked that I wasn't bawling when I saw Sis. Collette because they didn't know I see her every week at District Meeting! I still feel so lucky that I get to learn from her some more.
Leaving them wasn't nearly as hard as it was before because I felt so comforted seeing that they were all having wonderful times like I am in their own areas. I still feel like I have to pray for them tons though because I love them so much.
So, Return and Report knocked out all of Monday and Tuesday for teaching lessons because we got home at 9. Then we had District meeting on Wednesday which is an hour away. Those are always amazing. Me and Sister Collette are both really bothered still by how we all act when we get together in big groups of missionaries. I think it should be the opposite so we both made a plan of how we're going to help our district remember when things get out of hand :) She's the greatest like that.

Basically... this week was rough number wise and I didn't really like that because we soo used Return and Report and District meeting as an excuse. We could've easily reached our goals even with those things in the way but whatever.

Thursday was Thanksgiving! I made up this little "Thanksgiving lesson" one morning that we used on everybody and then we had dinner at the Behunins! SO fun. He set out old fashioned oil lamps around the table just because he knows I love them :) I ate a chestnut for the first time. But the best part of all was... burying Mary Lou's cat. Bro. B read a speech, there were black flowers and even this head stone looking thing. At the end, Mary Lou's like "Was it just me or did I hear a meow come from the grave?" Bro. B- "No, she's definitely dead, Mary." hahaha

Friday we had to go to urgent care because Sister Gass has impetigo (sp?). We sat in there for 2 and a half hours!! The drive was extremely long too. And we weren't even together for some reason. They had her laying in this other room forever and I was left outside with the whole football team, the girlfriend, the grandma, the angry guy, and the crazy Jim Carrey man. I gave them all these titles of course. This ended up being super cool because the angry guy suddenly burst out furious that he had been waiting forever. I talked to him for about an hour about what we believe and the whole room ended up piping in at random times telling stories about when they met a mormon and what they think we believe. Just preaching in the waiting room :) It was super cool because it was totally on accident! I was seriously considering pulling up a chair in the middle of the room and pulling out my pamphlet to give every person the first lesson! I could've so done it! It was a very scattered "lesson" with the waiting room but I gave our card to two people and the Jim Carrey man is talking to us on Facebook! He was the coolest. Here's a quote from him: "They caught me at a weak moment and suddenly, I was being a bouncer in a Big Bird costume." I don't even know. Everyone here's amazing like that.

Jackson is progressing. So, I called him one morning this week and was planning to ask him to be baptized!!! He was SO excited that I asked him. It shouldn't be so scary to ask people that, especially if they're as ready as him. He has been waiting for us to invite him. He's being baptized on January 10th! He's already being such a missionary! Today he texted us and feels like he needs to stop smoking (we totally haven't even given him the WOW lesson yet). He just realizes that his soul is more in sync with heaven when he doesn't smoke. ...We're wondering if he's one of the three Nephites.

Charlann is still doing amazingly!!! I made her one of those paper chain countdown's with scriptures on it counting down to her baptism during lunch yesterday. She loved it! I've drawn a picture of her that she wants me to give to her as a baptism present :)
Being an artist has benefited me so much in this area because everyone's just as weird and "artsy fartsy" (as dad says) as I am! Every weird little awkward thing about me has helped me connect with the people that Sister Gass says her and her last companion never could connect with. We are seeing so many miracles happen, especially with less active families, because they're opening up to me! That has been maybe one of my favorite things so far about being a missionary.

Sunday's are always amazing and it was even more incredible because President Wirthlin and Sister Wirthlin spoke to our branch and then President Finnegan (our Branch President who started Build-a-Bear) gave maybe the most incredible lesson I've witnessed. I feel so honored to be in his branch right now. I have no doubt that you will all know his name someday as an apostle or Seventy. Then we had another Thanksgiving dinner with Chad and MB. They had their friend there who we're going to start teaching! It was great and Michiko is my best friend.

Looking back on my entire first week here in Bennington, I can truly see how the Lord carried me through and I am so grateful for it! I don't know how I would have been so strong with out Him. I am reading the 4 Gospels straight through right now and studying Chapter 6 from Preach My Gospel and I am blown away at Christ's character. Never have I studied Him in this way and I have loved how close I've become with Him. I'd encourage all of you to at least study the Christlike Attributes section in pmg (is it even 6?). It is so wonderful to be learning about our Savior, especially around this time.
This Thanksgiving, I decided that I am most grateful for the people I am supposed to be teaching. I am more learning from them than anything and I come out of each lesson being absolutely blown away by them. I sure love each and every one of you guys. Thank you so so SO much for the packages! I got one from the ward/mom and Sister Pew and it made this week loads better. I am so grateful for you all and especially for your prayers! They're working, guys!

Sure love ya,
Sister Brynnie Hallsted

Monday, November 24, 2014

Bennington VT #4 You're wearing a shirt!?

I've got like no time left to write so you'll all be happy to know that this won't be such an obnoxiously long letter this week :)

-Elder Katcher came to Utica! woot woot. He's the guy who gave the talk about the riptide (?) He is amazing. We had a fireside on Tuesday night and Zone Conference with him on Wednesday. We didn't get tons of lessons in this week because we're so far away from everyone that it takes us over an hour to get anywhere. I wanted to give you all lots of amazing notes from the conference but I don't have time today so maybe next week!

We had to leave by 5;30 to even get to there on time, but we had a way fun drive.
When we got there, I looked at the program and my name was at the bottom under interviews. I didn't really know what that meant at first but I guess they just chose two random sisters out of the two zones to have an interview with Elder Katcher and it was me and Sister Thao! SO amazing. The whole conference was wonderful but that was the best part. He basically read my soul in that interview. I'm trying to decide if I want to write it on here because it was really sacred to me..

-Friday morning was maybe the roughest part of the whole Vermont experience because Sister Gass has been feeling sick. I'm maybe the least sympathetic person in the world so this was hard for me. She wanted to change into sweats and a t-shirt and go over to Jessica's to do "service" and clean her house. We go to do her dishes.

-Friday night however made up for all of it! We had the Bennington Branch Thanksgiving dinner! SO fun! It was super stressful for Sis. Gass to get everyone there but I knew it'd all work out. I drew this ridiculous little flyer and we went around during the week and invited our people to it and almost all of them came! It felt like me and Sister Gass were getting married and this dinner was our reception :) We just ran around the whole time talking to people, meeting less actives, eating tons of food and introducing our investigators to members. Maybe the greatest night of my mission.

That quote comes from one of the more awkward things I said this week. We have a RCLA named John who never ever ever wears a shirt. Him and his wife can't make any promises about coming to church because he has this tube sticking out of his heart that makes things hard for him (duh), but they could promise they were coming to this dinner. Haha Whatever. So, when I see him, I'm like "John! You're wearing a shirt?! I've never seen you wear a shirt before!" and it was just super awkward for everyone.

Another stupid thing I said that night: Mary Beth actually came to the dinner even though she said she'd probably not make it! She works in home health care (everyone does here) and the old lady had to go to the hospital so MB could come! So when I'm saying goodbye to Chad & MB, I'm like "Well, I'm really glad that old lady had to go to the hospital so you could come tonight!" I regretted those words right after they came out of my mouth. MB was laughing so hard, so... I guess that was good!

This shouldn't be what I'm going to use my time to write about in my "short" email this week cuz it's not that important... just hilarious. So, maybe the most hilarious thing about the whole night was when Brother B walks into the church after having picked up a Less Active Mary Lou. I go to shake his hand and he says "Sorry, I gotta go wash this. I've got dead cat all over me." Oh no. Mary Lou has the worlds nastiest most hideoderous cat with fur missing. She had had it for 17 years and would pray for it all the time. So, I guess when Brother B showed up to get her, she was bawling. Her cat was dead on the couch but she wasn't sure if it was dead yet. Bro B said it was stiff as a board. She told me all about how she played songs on her guitar and sang as her cat screeched out in pain for a few hours. But she thinks they relaxed him eventually cuz he stopped! (he died.) It should be sad but it's just hilarious to think of the hours she spent singing to that dead cat.
He would still be there.. dead on the couch if we hadn't invited her to this dinner. Nobody ever goes to Mary Lou's house except us every so often so it's just amazing how Heavenly Father is looking out for everyone! There was no better time to kill off that cat than that day.
Bro. B put it in his car and we're totally gonna bury it and have a funeral on Thanksgiving cuz she's coming to the Behunin's with us. That'll be hilarious! I'm thinking of writing a speech :)

Anyways, I'll be nice now.

Charlann totally stopped smoking!!! She's absolutely perfect, guys. She's so so excited for her baptism and invites everyone she meets.

Jackson is still out of town in New Jersey but he's still amazing. He shares the Book of Mormon with everyone and calls us to talk to us about how it so applies to his life. We're speechless after every conversation cuz he teaches us.
He called me and talked to me for like 15 minutes before church yesterday and told me about how the police totally beat the crap out of him. I was crying laughing so hard!!! He was on his way to the midnight showing of Mocking Jay and the police wanted to inspect his van. He said Heck no, I'm gonna be late to see J-Law on the big screen and then he had 6 cop cars following him. They pulled him out of his van when he got to the theater and threw him on the ground and handcuffed him. SO funny to picture that. They took him to the police station and then realized he'd done nothing wrong and he got let go. He still has pepper spray under his fingernails. He's hilarious.

-Everytime we take a picture on main street, a miracle happens. We were taking dumb pictures last night and an Asian man ran to us, told us he wants to meet up with us, gave us his number, got ours and left. Super weird but so cool! We're gonna take more pictures :)

I'm so sorry for the ridiculous email, but this week was kind of ridiculous. Now we get to go drive 4.5 hours to UTICA for Return and Report! SO excited to see my MTC sisters again.

I love you ALL. I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving even if you don't get to bury a dead cat like I do :)
Love, Sister Brynnie Hallsted

Monday, November 17, 2014

Bennington VT #3 T-Swift and the BOM

Dearest Family,
One month down!!! This week was absolutely amazing. We had an awesome District meeting, exchanges, I gave a talk (woot woot), hit my ONE MONTH MARK, it snowed.. twice, Charalnn quits smoking today (AH) and me and Sister Gass are getting closer each day! One of my greatest accomplishments as a missionary so far is that I've made Sister Gass cry laughing so hard twice. Sis Collette would pee, Sis Gass cries so I supposed my next companion will barf or something. The point is... our companionship unity is getting much better and I'm starting to lead out in more of our lessons!
In case you're one of my missionary buds who don't get on Facebook, the subject line comes from that man Jackson. Jackson is what makes me say this week was amazing though.
We met at Dunkin Donuts finally and found out some about him. This is kind of what I wrote in our record book about him: He's 36 and single. He's in Bennington because he wants to start a screen printing shop, but his favorite book was written at Bennington college and this girl he met just barely goes there. He knows he came to Bennington so randomly for a reason and he knows he was led to meet us. He's absolutely obsessed with Taylor Swift. It is freaking hilarious to me. He says "All I have to do is mention Taylor Swift and Sister H over here gets all red in the cheeks and starts giggling." Everyone's started calling me Sister H cuz I guess Hallsted's just too hard.

People keep giving her a hard time cuz she's like lives on a farm in Southern Utah and she talks like it too! Everyone keeps pointing out her accent this week and I make fun of her SO badly because of it. I love it though! It cracks me up and I think it's cute cuz it fits her somehow.

Having Sister Thao with us for 3 days was SO fun. She came out with me (wasn't in my district though) but she's hilarious. We loved having her and it was good to have her here cuz it made us grateful for each other. She came for a super stellar three days though so she is convinced that we should be Sister Training Leaders. She is hilarious!

Sister Thao made us even more excited about Jackson because I guess her area is absolutely dead. I guess we worked her half to death. Because we're all noobs we think Jackson is the greatest thing ever. After another lesson (where he gave us a plethora of free t-shirts he made- ahhh), we asked him how his reading is coming along in the Book of Mormon. The three of us are all sitting around the cell phone with our mouths wide open cuz he replies "page 221". WHAT?!
He is now almost done and, please, stalk him on facebook, because you can see that he has glued Taylor Swift and Jennifer Lawrence in the covers of the Book of Mormon because we said he could personalize it and mark it up if he wanted. Hahaha! We didn't necessarily mean like that but whatever. He's already becoming a missionary too! He's in Baltimore right now getting his stuff to move back here and he says he's talked to people on the bus, train, everywhere and told them about why he loves the Book of Mormon so much. What the heck!! It's awesome.

Charlann is quitting smoking today!!! We're going over to hide her cigarette maker machine thing right after this. Should be awesome. She wants everyone to pray for her :) We went over all the baptismal interview questions with her and she passed! Except for the smoking of course. But I know she can do it.
So, before Sacrament meeting started yesterday, I was telling Charlann that I was nervous to give my talk. She would have none of that! Haha She told me to look right at her and to just think about Jesus the entire time because He's the only one who really matters who will be listening. Then she thought we should say a prayer. So she puts her forehead to mine, holds my hands and prays out loud. I loooove her :) It helped a lot.
I have never given a talk so well in my life!!! I wasn't nervous when I got up there and I totally looked up and everything. First time ever. Everyone loved it and it got people actually interested to know me. Our dinner list is now basically full so hopefully we can leave good impressions when we come over to all these people's houses and they will help us out with our missionary work! When I sat down from my talk the 1st counselor in our branch (most intimidating man on earth) wrote me a note on his program "Now that is a TALK! Very GENUINE and WELL done!!" Gosh. That right there may have boosted my confidence level more than... something because he scares the crap out of me because I don't know if I can be as amazing of a missionary as he wants me to be. But now I have a little more confidence that I can do it. A stake high council guy spoke after me and he was just bawling from my talk. Super cool. I guess someone with the last name of Hallsted changed his life but I didn't get to talk to him after cuz he left so fast! It was amazing though. Watch, it'll be dad again :)

Mary Beth and Chad didn't come to church cuz they got really sick, but we went over last night anyways and their pitbull, Angel, fell asleep on me again and left nasty drool all over my skirt. I hate all the animals here. But Sister Gass thinks it's hilarious how they all love me for some reason.

Since it's getting colder and rainy a lot, we are slipping and sliding all over the place! Sister Thao almost biffed it and Sister Gass has fallen twice. Super funny.

Guys. There's no way I can tell you everything I want to tell you. Thank you all so much for the support through letters and Facebook. I love it and I wish I could comment back! Sure love all of you. I'll try to figure out how to send those pictures... I'll post more on Facebook tomorrow!

Sister Brynnie Hallsted

1. Got to exchange back and see Sister Collette on our 1 month anniversary!
2. We got ice cream at Stewarts to celebrate.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Bennington Vermont #2 - "Make Time for God, Maggie."

Dear Family,
I want to thank everyone for the packages that you sent me while I was in the MTC. I've lost track of the people I thanked so I want to do a big thank you to you guys, Sister Pew & Gwen, Sister Oborn, the Youngs, Manda and the mystery person (maybe Nana) who sent me Pumpkin bread :) I was SO spoiled in the MTC.

So... I'm gonna be bad at writing these letters because... there's just too much. But for right now I'll just introduce you to some people that I've met that I love so much! It really is so amazing how fast you can fall in love with these people you hardly know!

Brother Behunin: First person I met and first person I loved. He had a greeny dinner for me my very first night! Literally everything was green. He even painted his fingernails green. Haha So I liked him right off the bat. SO so nice to have that when I was feeling like I was gonna cry because I had just lost Sister Collette. We have FHE with them every Wednesday night and dinner. He also takes us to breakfast every p-day. So nice! I guess he's like the father to all Sister missionaries.

Charlann: Oh. My. Gosh. Charlann is like Cassandra from The Enchantress of Crumbledown I've decided. She's our most solid investigator and if she can quit smoking by the 20th, she can get baptized December 20th! I want that so badly for her! I'm sure you're not supposed to choose favorite investigators, but ooooh she is my favorite. Is it so weird to love somebody so much that things are like cute to me now?! I love her long silver hair. Charlann provided the quote in the subject line and I so wish I could have you guys hear her voice. She loves loves loves Jesus. We actually have a lot in common with the ways our testimonies first started to grow. Hers is all founded on her love for God and she will burst into prayer at the most random times and be like "Father! I'm getting stressed!" I love it because I do the same thing... just not out loud during a conversation with people :)

Jessica: She's a recent convert with three of the craziest boys I've met in my entire life. Like, the first time I met them, we got a text from her saying "The boys are excited to break in the new sister." Sister Gass told me I should be worried and when we walked in they were all armed with nerf guns and pillows and it hasn't stopped since. It is a constant battle and I feel for Jessica because of the extremely rough life she has lived. I hated that. 

Chad, Mary Beth & Michko: Jess said this quote because on fast Sunday, our investigator Chad bore his testimony. MB is his almost (hopefully soon!) wife and Michko is their daughter. So cute. We just had a super successful lesson with them yesterday about temples! Like, they both feel this extremely strong desire to work towards going to the temple that may just get them to baptism. Super cool to see them suddenly progress so fast just because they can both feel that power from just hearing about temples in church. They have this pittbull, Angel, that literally attacks me (with love) every time I come over and no one knows why. I hate it but I love them.

Zubin: Nothing's actually happened with him but I so hope and pray because this is the first person I gave a Book of Mormon to! I was so awkward but I loved it!!! This is how it went... Sunday night was freezing, it was almost time to go home and I had been trying to give my book to someone but no one was around because it was super cold. Me and Sister Gass said a prayer that someone would show up. A few people did! But they just ran inside a restaurant from their cars. But as we're walking up main street once again... I see someone and I ditch Sister Gass and say "That's the one!". He looked like a boy my age. He passes me, we say "hello" then (I'm SO awkward) I say "Um... excuse me... Could you just wait a second?" He stopped and was so nice and says "Sure!" I pull out my Book of Mormon from my poofy jacket and say "I know it's super cold & you probably want to get inside but, you see, we're missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints... Mormons?" He's like "Oh yeah! The people who believe in having 9 wives!" ha ha he No. Then I asked him if I could talk to him for a sec cuz "you see, I'm trying to give away this book." Haha. I'm getting better at this part :) He was thrilled and said "Oh! I'll take your book!" and he went to grab it but I held it away so I could talk to him about it first. It was just AMAZING because before I started talking to him, I was trying to practice what I would say and I could not do it. But it suddenly came so naturally that I felt like I wasn't even the one speaking to Zubin anymore. I think Heavenly Father was so nice and practically handed me that boy to give me courage to continue to open my mouth!

Jackson: We are SO blessed! Sister Gass says this thing happens to missionaries all the time but it's never happened to me yet so I can be freaking out excited as much as I want! This man... is hard to explain. He basically just walked up, said he has been watching us and knows he needs to meet with us while he's still in town. He's... extremely hard to follow just by talking to him, but all we know is that he is very VERY excited to meet with us, but he's rescheduled twice. Ugh. I think he's kind of having a crisis in his life right now and is kind of just traveling around looking for a job. He's so excited that we actually are kind of worried. Haha As we were texting, we said we're excited to meet with him. He replies "No. no. I can promise you that I am more excited than you are." You are?? He says he has a ton of questions so we better be ready. He calls us sweethearts and has shared a ton of my facebook photos. Even photos of my mtc sisters so we're just really confused about him. He says he's excited to talk to someone who knows "the Truth". We'll meet with him tomorrow (hopefully) and we'll see what happens! But it was awesome to have someone just walk up and force his contact info upon us. If only that was everyday :)

So many more people, but no time! I LOVE the people of Bennington too much.

Random things:
-We had the Palmyra temple President speak to us yesterday in church! So cool! He came to our Gospel Principles class. I like teaching it!
-A drunk man stopped us, mixed Jesus's name and the F-word in the same sentence a few times, demanded to know our first names (we made up names), he kissed our hands and left. Super weird. Haha!
-We had a district meeting on Wednesday and ahhhhhhhhhhh. Sister Collette is in my District!!! I feel like this is Heavenly Father's way of showing me how much He loves to see me happy :) And that I should be happy more often. I love her SO much.
-We had a District activity today and played volleyball. I was so dreading it but it turned out to be fun! Everyone was so nice to me and tried to help me out a lot without making me feel like an idiot :) 

Well, of course there's much much more and of course I've been on the computer way over time and of course I sure love all of you and would sure love to get hand written letters from you all! I am SO grateful for everything you guys have done for me and I'm especially feeling so grateful for all the many ways I've felt blessed as a missionary. I know that the gospel is the only way to return back to Heavenly Father and I know that's what He wants more for us than anything else!
I sure love you all :)
Sister Brynnie Hallsted